Glencore has launched an early refinancing of one of its main credit facilities, bankers familiar with the process said, as the mining and trading house tries to shore up investor confidence amid the biggest commodity rout in two decades.
The terms for the $8.45bn, one-year revolving credit facility — used to fund Glencore’s business of transporting and storing commodities including coal, oil and copper — are expected to be on similar terms to last year, banking sources said. A Glencore spokesman confirmed the process had started.
The early launch — last year Glencore approached its top lenders in late February — comes as the world’s biggest commodity traders try to show they still enjoy access to cheap financing even as oil and metal prices have continued sliding in 2016.
They are looking to complete the refinancing before the company announces annual results on March 1, and will then launch a wider syndication.
Glencore’s share price has fallen more than 15 per cent in the first two weeks of this year and early on Thursday dropped within just a few cents of its all-time low of 67p. That level was hit in September, shortly before chief executive Ivan Glasenberg launched a sweeping debt reduction plan. Glencore’s shares later jumped 10 per cent, as a bounce in metal prices relieved pressure on miners.
“We have a spent a lot of time from a credit perspective making sure everything is fine,” said one banker involved in the deal. “I think these guys have made the right noises; they are taking action and they have the bullets at their disposal to get it done.”
Several other commodity traders are also looking to refinance credit lines with their banks. Privately held Trafigura, one of Glencore’s biggest trading rivals, has said it expects to refinance about $4.3bn at slightly lower rates by the end of the first quarter, after a strong oil trading performance last year. Glencore has also hinted at a bumper year for its oil business.
Singapore-listed Noble Group, the largest commodity trader in Asia, is also looking to refinance its short-term credit facilities, though faces the additional hurdle of having had its debt downgraded to “junk” status by two of the three major rating agencies in recent weeks.
Vitol, the world’s largest independent oil trader, is also trying to arrange a $3bn loan to back a pre-export financing deal with Kazakhstan’s state-owned energy company KazMunaiGas.
The collapse in commodity prices over the past 18 months has, at times, been beneficial for the biggest oil and metals dealers, with many reporting strong results from their trading divisions. Financing deals become cheaper when prices fall, while profitable storage and arbitrage opportunities tend to proliferate.
But Glencore transformed itself from a pure-play trader in 2013 with its takeover of mining company Xstrata, and is now juggling a higher debt load and greater exposure to the underlying price of metals, coal and iron ore.
Copper, one of Glencore’s main mined commodities, hit a six and half year low below $4,400 a tonne on Thursday, before recovering. On Wednesday, the international oil benchmark Brent crude oil slipped below $30 a barrel for the first time in 12 years.
Some lenders say regulators are asking pointed questions about banks’ exposure to the commodities sector, with some taking a broad brush approach that does little to differentiate between miners, oil companies and traders.
Glencore’s debt reduction plan, which involves assets sales, a share sale and dividend cuts, was increased before Christmas. The company is now targeting a reduction in net to $18bn-$19bn or lower by the end of 2016 — down from $30bn in June — by taking a knife to investments and putting more assets up for sale.